KOTA KINABALU: On Feb 24, Apas assemblyman Tawfiq Abu Bakar Titingan left his sickbed to deliver what would be his last message to his constituents: Stay loyal to Barisan Nasional (BN).
Tawfiq, who was also Sabah youth and sports minister, had been undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer at Prince Court Medical Centre in Kuala Lumpur.
He died on March 14 at 56 years of age.
Despite his illness, he had attended the ceremony at the Kampung Titingan community hall in Tawau to deliver his personal donation to victims of a fire.
In his three-minute speech, he urged the constituents to continue supporting BN.
“I may be at the hospital for two or three months more,” Apas people’s development leader Sarman Amat Simito recalled Tawfiq saying during the ceremony.
“Whoever is the candidate during the election, give your support.
“The person is not important, what’s important is that we keep supporting BN.”
Tawfiq, who was described by some as looking frail, had to be helped onstage before the start of the ceremony.
He said he was sad that he had not been able to meet the people for a long time.
“Today, I made myself get up and meet you so that I could make good on my promise,” he told the villagers.
“I came here not as Tawfiq, but for Umno and BN. I made myself come here.”
Many of those present appeared touched by Tawfiq’s speech and some were seen holding back tears, Sarman told FMT.
During the ceremony, Tawfiq delivered his contributions to 85 families whose houses were razed in the fire. Another 37 families received zinc sheets to repair their homes.
A resident received a wheelchair and 330 others were given basic assistance.
“Every night, I can’t sleep thinking about my promise to donate RM1,000 to each head of family affected by the fire that razed Kampung Titingan on Sept 5, 2017.
“I’m worried about passing away without fulfilling that promise. That’s why I came today although I am sick.
“The eight months I wasn’t with the people of Kampung Titingan felt like eight years. I’ve long wanted to come back and see the rakyat, but the doctor didn’t allow it,” Tawfiq said at the event.
He also apologised to the residents of the village, which was named after his late father, for not being able to carry out his responsibilities.
Tawfiq was first elected in Apas in the 2004 general election.
He retained it in a four-cornered tussle in the last election with 9,013 votes, beating his closest rival, PKR’s Alizaman Jijurahman, with a 6,122-vote majority.
The other candidates were SAPP’s Tahir Dahu who obtained 149 votes, and Chok Yot Min of STAR who garnered 75 votes.
During the last polls, Tawfiq almost doubled the 3,608 majority achieved in the 2008 election.
He defeated two other candidates in the 2008 outing: PKR’s Henry Vun (1,801 votes) and independent Ardi Arsah (77 votes).
Sarman, who took over Tawfiq’s duty to develop the constituency during his treatment in Kuala Lumpur, said Tawfiq’s family had wanted him to rest and retire from politics.
But most of the constituents wanted him to remain as their assemblyman.
“This all depended on his health condition and the doctor’s advice at the time,” said Sarman.
“Actually, Tawfiq himself wanted to step down. His speech during that ceremony also indicated this.”
Apas, along with the state electoral districts of Balung and Sri Tanjong, is within the parliamentary constituency of Tawau on Sabah’s east coast.
Sri Tanjong was won by Sabah DAP secretary Chan Foong Hin with a 5,927-vote majority in a three-cornered fight in the last election.
Federal Deputy Education Minister Mary Yap is the MP in Tawau while Balung is represented by Syed Abas Syed Ali, who is also the speaker at the state assembly.
The Apas constituency covers a 60 sq km area and has 18,658 registered voters, 82% of whom are Muslim Bumiputeras.
Sarman said Tawfiq had brought much development to the constituency.
“Some 80% of village roads in the constituency have been improved,” he said, adding that many dilapidated mosques had also been repaired.
Sarman said about 80% of water supply and 90% of electricity needs in the area had been met.
“We have applied for allocations for these and also for the repairs of the remaining mosques.”
According to him, Tawfiq also helped improve economic activities in his constituency.
“Licensed fishermen have received engines while planters have been helped by agencies such as Felcra (Federal Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority) and so on.”
Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman said Tawfiq had been a dedicated leader, and his passing was a great loss to Sabah and its people.
“He was a friend, a kind and honourable man, a dedicated, hardworking, proactive, sincere and trustworthy leader and member of the state cabinet who always kept his word to the people,” he said in a statement released after Tawfiq’s death.
Musa added that despite his illness, Tawfiq had kept working and serving the people right to the end.